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Search for 4-year-old saved from River Medway near Teston Bridge in 1964

An elderly man is hoping to be re-united with a young boy he rescued from a river 55 years ago.

In 1964 a young Harry Wooding was working at Leybourne ballast pit when he developed bronchitis and had to take some time off.

He was going for an afternoon stroll along the River Medway near Teston Bridge with his wife Ruth when they saw a group of people by the bank shouting ‘can anybody swim?’

90-year-old Harry Wooding who hopes to be reunited with young boy he saved in 1964. Picture: Andy Jones
90-year-old Harry Wooding who hopes to be reunited with young boy he saved in 1964. Picture: Andy Jones

It didn’t take long for him to realise there was a youngster in the water who was in trouble and very close to disappearing under some brambles.

Speaking at the time to what was the Kent Messenger Gazette - the forerunner to the Kent Messenger - the then 35-year-old from Chez Nous, Ham Hill in Snodland said: “Without stopping to think abut anything or take off my shoes I jumped in and went after the boy.

“I just managed to reach him as his head was going under again.

“A young couple took him from me as I regained the bank and I dashed off home to get out of my wet clothes.”

At their home, now in Gavin Astor House, Aylesford, Mrs Wooding more recently told the KM: “ I just couldn’t stop him, he just held the boy up by one arm and nobody would take him off of him.

“He didn’t get him out very gracefully, he looked a right sight let me tell you” she laughed.

Teston Bridge
Teston Bridge

“He went under the bushes and Harry came out covered in blood. If the boy had gone under again he would have gone under the weeds and Harry wouldn’t have found him.

“ I was very proud of him but thought he was silly jumping in like that.”

Mr Wooding stayed to watch the boy take a breath but it wasn’t until he saw the story in the paper that he found out his name was Marcus Wakelin.

The now 90-year-old said: “ I don’t know what was going through my head,

“I decided to jump in because, as far as I remember, nobody else did. It messed my hair up and I wanted to get home because I was soaked and suffering from bronchitis.

“He might not even be in the country anymore, it would be nice to see what he is up to and I’m always happy to shake somebody’s hand.”

The front page of the Kent Messenger GazettePicture: Andy Jones
The front page of the Kent Messenger GazettePicture: Andy Jones

The rescued four-year-old, Marcus Wakelin, would be in his 50s now.

He had been taken to Teston Country Park by his teenage uncle John Clements and his girlfriend Dawn Cole.

The newspaper report at the time described the heroics of the rescuer and the subsequent search for the mystery saviour.

Marcus was reported as living at Trevor Drive, Allington Park Estate, Maidstone, at the time of the scare which, according to the cutting titled ‘The Mystery Hero’, was witnessed by holiday crowds along the picturesque riverbank.

There is mention of Marcus’s 18-year-old uncle John Clements diving in straight away to save his nephew from drowning, but he apparently hit the bottom and stunned himself.

A follow-up article which revealed the ‘no-fuss, river rescue hero’ as Harry Wooding said little Marcus owed his life to the ‘modest, retiring’ man.

If you are Marcus, or know him, please feel free to get in touch by email at jsharp@thekmgroup.co.uk or by calling 01622 695666.

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